How can Emperor Palpatine have returned for Star Wars 9? The possibilities of how this might have been accomplished are nearly as mind-boggling as the revelation that the chief villain of the first six Star Wars films has returned for the final installment, The Rise Of Skywalker.
Fans were thrilled by the release of the first trailer for Star Wars 9 and the announcement of its official title - The Rise of Skywalker - at Star Wars Celebration 2019. Excitement gave way to confusion, and perhaps a small degree of terror, as the trailer approached its conclusion and Luke Skywalker said "No one is ever really gone," just before a familiar evil laugh was heard before the title was revealed. The implication was clear - Emperor Palpatine is back.
This begs the question: just how precisely has Darth Sidious survived? The lore of the first eight Star Wars films suggests several possibilities. There are even more options available when one considers the whole of the stories making up what is now known as Star Wars Legends.
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Is Palpatine A Force Ghost Is Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker?
The most obvious answer is that Palpatine may have mastered the arts necessary to become a Force Ghost. A mainstay of the series since the very first Star Wars film, this power was later said to have been discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn in Revenge of the Sith. It was Qui-Gon who taught both Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi how to become Force Ghosts, rather than becoming one with the Force, as was typical for a Jedi upon their death.
Appearing as they did in life but surrounded by a milky blue light, Force Ghosts primarily use their new forms to offer counsel and comfort from beyond the grave. They were capable of manifesting anywhere in the galaxy, although would generally only appear directly to people with whom they shared a deep connection. Force Ghosts are largely incapable of interacting with the physical world but do maintain a limited ability to use the Force, such as when Yoda summoned a lightning bolt in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While generally considered a feat that only Force users in touch with the Light Side of the Force could accomplish, Anakin Skywalker was able to become a Force Ghost in Return of the Jedi shortly after his redemption and death.
The Sith had a similar ability, known as Essence Transfer, which allowed them to take over another living being's body through sheer force of will or attach their souls to a physical object. Many Sith were able to survive for thousands of years in this manner, filling a wearable object like a necklace or ring with their essence and then waiting for some hapless fool to put it on and become their new host. While Sith and other Dark Jedi were apparently limited in how their ghostly forms could travel because of this bond, some were able to manipulate the physical environment around them, like poltergeists. It is entirely possible that Palpatine's dark spirit has been surviving in this fashion for decades.
Force Immortality As Taught By Darth Plagueis
Another possibility is that Palpatine managed to replicate the legendary feats of his master, the Sith Lord Darth Plagueis and developed a form of Force-based immortality. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine told a young Anakin Skywalker that Darth Plagueis had gained such fine control of the Force that he could create life and prevent death from touching those he cared about. It was this discussion that pushed Anakin onto the path to the dark side, his fear of his young wife dying leading him to start studying the ways of the Sith so that he could save her from the danger he foresaw coming.
There is a chance that Palpatine, who was even more paranoid and fearful of death than his master, may have found a way to use Darth Plagueis' teachings to defy death itself using the Force, albeit in a manner that required he take some time to heal from his apparent defeat in Return of the Jedi. This would make sense as it has been repeatedly shown throughout the Star Wars saga that it is much harder for Dark Jedi and Sith to use their connection to the Force for the purposes of healing. Logically, it is hard to maintain a connection to one's hate and fear once you have relieved yourself of pain and suffering.
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